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Diving into the Deep: Safeguarding and Understanding Manatees through AI

By Regina Cervera, Projects Coordinator, C Minds’ Future of Earth; Constanza Gómez Mont, Founder and Director; and the support of Nicte Cabañas, Communication Lead.

Embark on an exciting journey as we launch a pioneering project led by C Minds and the University of Chile. Made possible through funding from Google.org and powered by collaboration with The South Border College (ECOSUR), this project marks a significant step forward in leveraging AI technology to enhance our understanding and protection of the captivating manatees across Latin America and the Caribbean.

Let us dive into why this topic matters greatly:

In the intricate tapestry of marine ecosystems, the gentle presence of the American Manatee (also known as West Indian manatee) stands as both an emblem of nature's beauty and a key player for ecological equilibrium. With fewer than 13,000 of these herbivorous aquatic mammals remaining globally, the urgency to understand and protect them becomes undeniable. Beyond their charismatic charm, manatees play a pivotal role in maintaining the health of coastal habitats across Latin America and the Caribbean.



Manatees, despite their robust ecological significance, teeter on the brink of endangerment, listed as vulnerable by the IUCN. These remarkable creatures serve as ecological balancers, curbing the unchecked growth of marine algae and seagrass. Their disappearance could pave the way for toxic conditions within marine ecosystems, triggering a domino effect that leads to overpopulation and the rampant spread of mosquito-borne diseases. As umbrella species, safeguarding manatees transcends a single species; it becomes a mission to protect the entirety of their marine home.

Within this intricate backdrop, Mexico emerges as a crucial case study, hosting substantial populations of the West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus). Yet, even here, the decline looms large due to impending habitat changes and heightened boat traffic. Time is of the essence to decipher the cryptic world of manatee vocalizations, allowing us to monitor elusive populations and grasp their ecological nuances. This understanding forms the bedrock for effective conservation strategies.

In this sense, the "AI 4 Manatees" initiative, aims to become a beacon of hope in the endeavor to secure manatee populations throughout the Caribbean, Central, and South America. This visionary project, powered by the synergy of C Minds and the University of Chile, funded by Google.org and with the support of The South Border College (ECOSUR), harnesses the prowess of AI technology to unravel the enigma of manatee vocalizations. The project's essence lies in its capacity to decipher and analyze submarine audio recordings, unveiling the intricate language of manatees.



By deciphering these vocalizations, the AI 4 Manatees project empowers researchers, conservationists, and decision-makers to deepen their insights into manatee behavior and communication patterns. This is not merely a scientific endeavor but a cornerstone for informed decision-making. With the digital tools provided by this initiative, the conservation community gains a vantage point to tailor strategies that resonate with the needs of these marine giants.

In a world where technology and nature often seem at odds, the AI 4 Manatees project stands as a testament to the harmonious fusion of both. It paints a future where AI-driven insights dance in rhythm with the ocean's currents, ensuring the survival of a species that holds the key to the vitality of marine ecosystems. As the gentle ripples of AI technology touch the lives of manatees, they send waves of transformation throughout the seas they call home.

We are deeply grateful to Google.org for making this project a reality and look forward to learning together, with our group of partners that includes AI experts and biologists, how to harness the power of AI to safeguard this beautiful vulnerable species.

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Similar initiatives

Review the Tech4Nature México project, which aims to accelerate the effective conservation and regeneration of biodiversity and ecosystem health by strengthening the monitoring, conservation and understanding of the effects of climate change on priority ecosystems and species in the mangrove zone of the Yucatan Peninsula. This is done by harnessing the power of community-centered approaches, machine learning, and multi-sector collaborations. This project is led by C Minds, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Government of Yucatan and Huawei's Tech4All, in collaboration with the Polytechnic University of Yucatan and the participation of Rainforest Connection.



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